Colorado Hunting Big Game



Rocky Mountain Elk

Colorado is home to the largest elk population in the world with estimates to be around 280,000 elk.  Colorado’s hunting industry brings in about $1 billion annually making it the second-largest tourism industry in the state. With the American elk populations dwindled to less than 100,000 by the early 1890s, this was caused by unregulated hunting, grazing competition with domesticated livestock, and urbanization that  was pushing westward, destroying their habitat.  Throughout the 20th Century there was an effort to bring these number back up through wildlife management; regulations, national parks and other habitats that were put into conservation.  By 1984, there were an estimated 715,000 elk and by 2009 the number grew to 1,031,000 in North America.

Each year it is estimated to be that 43,490 elk harvested in Colorado and 215,326 hunters for this species, so that’s a harvest rate of 20%.  As you can see from these number that elk are high sought after and the elk will repetition their herd from the young that will be born in the spring.   Some families rely solely on the harvest of an elk to feed their families throughout the coming year.


Colorado Mule Deer

Colorado’s first most abundant big game species is mule deer while the second is elk.  In 2012 Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) population estimate of 408,000 mule deer statewide is 22 percent to 29 percent below the goal of 525,000 to 575,000 animals.  The main contribution to this decline is said to be from an increase in predation, mainly mountain lions, but also from humans, from road kill; In 20
14, there were approximately
4,000 recorded crashes involving wildlife – the second highest total in the past decade.

As a bow hunter here in Colorado hunting for deer specifically mule deer and the rocky mountain elk.  I started bow hunting 2 years ago now and have yet to harvest an animal but I have the pleasure to spend many days and nights on public land in the homes of these amazing animals.  Having put over 100 miles of boots on the ground searching for these animals it has put my meat consumption into perspective, and have realized that if I can not harvest my own meat then my meat consumption of grocery meat should decrease.  I bow hunt to fill my freezers full of meat, not just my freezer but family and friends.  On an average elk, the amount of meat that is harvest is around 250 lbs, which is a LOT of meat for my girlfriend and myself.


Glassing for Elk and Deer

Can hunting in Colorado be considered sustainable? I would argue that it can not be, for without management our population would be wiped out.  I do think that it is a better alternative to supermarket meat for the mass of the population has no idea how it feels to take an animal’s life and then eat it, in our day of age some might say that meat comes from the supermarket and not a farm.  This disconnection with our meat is what drove me to take on the challenge of harvesting my our meat with a bow on our public lands.

I would encourage all the meat eaters out there that have not witnessed what the process is like to see an animal be harvested and then eat it, to think very hard about your meat consumption.





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7 responses to “Colorado Hunting Big Game

  1. fipe0191

    I agree with your point that it’s rewarding and eye-opening to hunt for your own food. I think this would make consumers think more about what they are eating and their value of meat might even increase. If one had to go out and hunt for their own food, they would definitely be more aware and frugal about what they are consuming. Obviously the entire population cannot be expected to do this, but I still think it’s an interesting and important idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. amyquandt

    Interesting! I have read a few articles about how elk and deer populations throughout the West are artificially high due to lack of natural predators such as wolves. Is the wolf population on the increase in Colorado like it is in other places and how do you think this will impact hunters?


    • blakecurran1

      The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) states that there currently is no wild population of wolves in the state of Colorado. This past January the CPW voted not to allow the reintroduction of wolves back into the state. If wolves were reintroduced or came from a neighboring state and made a steady pack then it would have a direct effect on the big game population here in Colorado. The impact would be a decrease in the number of tags that issue each year for the wolves would be feeding on the big game population, leading to a decrease in numbers.


  3. pjconti

    It’s really interesting that the mule deer populations are see that 22~29% decline in Colorado. Especially the increase in traffic related deaths. What do you think the main reason for this high amount of traffic collisions is?


    • blakecurran1

      The main reason for the high amount of traffic collision are a causation of our continuous development that might be pushing them around. The majority get hit on the road for these are migratory animals to get to wintering grounds. For that they need to travel and cross a lot of our infrastructures. In Colorado last year they completed a wildlife crossing, a bridge over the road, that has had great success. This is something that in the future will hopefully see more crossings like that.


  4. I am interested to hear more about families who rely on hunting for all of their meat consumption over a year. Are there cookbooks that exist for using all of the meat harvested from the hunt? How prevalent is this in Colorado, and what are these communities like?


    • blakecurran1

      Im sure that there are cookbooks out there for wild game but having a cookbook to cook it is not necessary for you can use in substitution for any other meat. Not sure who uses a cookbook anymore but online there is a lot of great information on how to cook it if your new to cooking meat. Most of the people that rely on the harvest of a big game animal live in rural areas where there is no supermarket in close distance.


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